"I've done everything I love at least twice in my life. Hunting, fishing, mountain climbing, skiing. I've seen places in the world too beautiful for words."
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Kurt was born November 2nd, 1941 in Mt. Vernon, son of Eileen and Alfred Higgins. After graduating from Mt. Vernon High School, Kurt served in the Army in Germany. He attended Western Washington State College (WWU) where he received a degree in English Literature. He was on a path to becoming a college professor, but chose to work with teenagers as a high school teacher.
He wanted to reach the whole child. He established an alternative high school in Oak Harbor attempting to keep troubled teenagers from dropping out, by making their experience relevant and rewarding. After two years he left to work outdoors. He liked to joke that he served as the "best educated gardener at Echo Glenn Youth Center", where he also was elected union president for several years, He was instrumental in improving worker safety and labor relations. As Editor of Union Voices he had the chance to express his views on worker's rights in editorials inspired in part by Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, the Wobblies, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, the Dali Lama and Marshall McLuhan. His wry sense of humor, satire, dry wit and insight made his publication popular reading with the administrators as well as the union members. He believed the forces for change didn't always have to be serious. He later became a counselor at Echo Glenn, helping to create a self-esteem program involving climbing and river rafting. He organized an innovative group experience for the teenage residents with Native American Elders.
Kurt said, "From the time of my youth I was always inspired to become a cowboy, not in the usual confined to the ranch way, but in the spirit of freedom, self-determination and cooperation. My general outlook. My attitude. The essence of who I am. Helping other people. Loyalty. Loving my family. My children."
"I've struggled against poverty and injustice, forces that negate and diminish us. I have never lived a life confined within the lines. I participated in radical street politics during Vietnam and the WTO."
"I feel there is a force that ties us all together. The wisdom of the Native American Medicine Wheel gives me perspective. We're all on this journey together. We're all Dharma Bums. That's why I can wear a Cabelas hat in a vegan restaurant. Turn the wheel. Ride the Bus. Our mission is loving, caring and sharing."
After receiving a regional fiction award in college, Kurt had dreams of being an author. He received encouragement from Ken Kesey, Nelson Algren, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Allen Ginsberg and Dick Gregory. But work, life and children growing up got in the way of his literary ambition. For the last three years he felt lucky to have collaborated on a friend's novel. He had no problem letting his friend do all the typing. After reading the final draft, he felt fulfilled with his contribution to the book. He said, "My spirit is alive in this book. It will outlive me." He died peacefully at Mira Vista in Mt. Vernon on June 4.
Kurt was preceded in death by his wife, Marcia. He is survived by his second wife, Jeanine, his son Joshua and wife Katherine, his daughter, Marika, his grandsons Harold and Braxton and his dear friend and companion, Sally Wirtzfeld.
What a presence Kurt was and still is as he has left his indelible mark on so many friends. In Kurt's memory you can give to a
Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company on Aug. 19, 2012